As we, or our dogs, develop learning skills we can see that learning progresses along pathways that becoming increasingly more complex. We build from very basic learning, integrate previous learning and combine learning from different dimensions. This can slow down naturally or continue to increase with individual capacity and needs.
Sometimes we just do not need to learn more than we need to get by in every day activities, others are always seeking to learn more. All of us can be both.
When we are making a plan of learning, which in education is considered a curriculum, we are laying down a pathway. That pathway should include a rich diversity of learning and can incorporate specialised development alongside lifeskills. The pathway should be carefully designed so that advanced skills are not taught until the foundation skills are sound. Running before the stability of walking results in a sore chin. If you are developing a pathway for another young learner, it is your responsibility to cause them no harm and ensure you have a reliable form of assessing the their walking skills are secure before any introduction of running.
The success of the pathway requires equal skills in an ability to assess the stages of learning as much as the teaching of learning. We need clear evidence of where the learner is at any stage.
The training of dogs has evolved in a culture that is often separated from any form of structured education. We are continuing a tradition of word of mouth, assumption, legend and myth that has no real evidence to support it. Whilst puppies are continually being taught that sit is a necessary part of learning we are perpetuating a similar principle that children should be seen and not heard.
The current trend is to collect training recipes that individually may suggest promising outcomes but are not tailored to the ingredients in your pantry. The training industry is very similar to cooking which can cover the knowledge to prepare a simple lunch, to a complex banquet. You can learn the skills sufficient for every day needs or graduate to a professional level that incorporated complexities at many levels. Where dog training fails is in teaching a structured pathway for either the trainer or the dog. You can learn your cooking skills alongside your grandmother or in a culinary school. Either way there are foundation skills, knowledge and understanding that must be acquired before progress.
If the restaurant industry applied the same lack of structure that the dog training industry does more of us would be suffering from serious food poisoning.
The following diagrams are inspired by the Tiemann & Markle (1990) article on Learning Processes if you would like to explore further.
The Learning Plans at the end of the course are based on this progress and complexity.